To stay together over the long haul, couples must learn how to fight. How to argue, how to air grievances, how to repair and come back together.
The first step is to stop and listen to the other person — and have them explain their perspective. What just happened, in their eyes. Literally, what did they hear, what did they do, what did their partner say, what did their partner do.
Then the other person speaks.
And it’s surprising to hear the same event from two different perspectives. What you realize, ideally, is that you agree fairly quickly on what happened — but vary widely on how you and your partner felt about them, or how they made you each of you feel and how you both internalized them.
And therein lies the lesson. There is a difference between what happened, the truth — and how you feel or perceive it.
Your feelings are yours, authentic simply by being. But there can be no repair, there can be no coming together, without a shared and mutual understanding of what happened.
It takes an agreed upon truth in order to keep going together.
What would it take, I’ve wondered, to storm the Capitol in an insurrection? What must one believe to think such an extreme act was warranted and justified?
One must feel threatened, or wronged. Only a grievance deeply believed would compel someone to engage in such an act.
And that’s where we are. The perpetrators of insurrection and sedition on January 6 believed to their core that a great wrong, one contrary to their understanding of democracy and the foundational philosophy of American government, had occurred.
It was the wise sage Obi Wan Kenobi who asked, who is the greater fool, the fool, or the one that follows the fool? To wit: who is the greater liar, the liar, or the one who believes the liar?
A lie cannot exist without its counterpart, the truth.
The truth is the baseline of what we respond to, of what we prepare for, on what we base our projections, our expectations, our dreams. If there is no shared truth, then all else will appear disjointed — to the point of opposition, the point of not just distorted realities, but of contradictory realities.
Because the opposite of the truth is a lie.
From Alternate Realities to The Big Lie
So we go from a galaxy far, far away, to the more modern sage of Karl Rove, who was the first to give voice to the “reality-based community,” as if there could be any other.
There is a direct line from giving rise to and exploiting the concept of an alternative to the reality-based community (i.e. a community based in non-reality) to those who believed the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was rigged or stolen.
If you live beyond reality, you can believe what people tell you, regardless of evidence. In the non-reality based community, one can claim a country has weapons of mass destruction when they don’t just as easily as one can say there was mass election fraud when there wasn’t.
America’s philosophical and legislative progenitors clearly enunciated the need for an informed citizenry. “An informed citizenry,” said Thomas Jefferson, “is the only true repository of the public will.”
That’s why the insurrection was doomed to fail. The informed citizenry, the massive share of the American public that does not believe the Big Lie of the election being stolen or rigged, the part of the citizenry that lives in the reality-based community, won by imposing its will to not question the election results.
The informed citizenry, in other words, believed in the truth.
And now that informed citizenry is demanding and expecting full justice for the insurrectionists. Beyond justice, the informed citizenry is making clear, especially as more and more details come out of how the insurrection was inspired and orchestrated, how unacceptable the insurrectionists’ betrayal of America is.
The horror of January 6 will not fade, as much work as the new administration must do, as much work we all must do to save the planet, our communities, our families.
January 6 was the ultimate shattering of what the vast majority of American’s still believe: fair and just elections, a peaceful transfer of power, the power to the people.
The insurrectionists felt themselves to be acting out the power of the people, I’m sure. But what they didn’t realize, while being fed The Big Lie, is that those spewing falsehoods knew the truth — that the informed citizenry had spoken. The far-right Republican insurrectionists just didn’t like what we had to say.
The Path Back From Betrayal
The insurrectionists’ betray is something to be thoroughly investigated — to both service justice and to help us prevent another such traumatic attack in the future.
When the investigation is complete, and the levers of justice make their way through the entire list of those involved, there will be another opportunity for the informed citizenry to validate the truth.
Those who believe the Big Lie now might believe the next Big Lie about who is responsible for the insurrection.
Many of those are the ones now calling for unity, rather than accountability, understanding and justice.
Unity is exactly what we should be aiming for; our country sorely needs it.
But it will come at a price. And that price, so simple and easy and natural and common sensible to the informed citizenry, is believing in — and acknowledging — the truth.
The truth that the election was fair, not rigged, not stolen and that there has been no travesty of democracy.
The truth that Trump’s presidency is ending not because of any nefarious tactics or machinations, but because of the will of American voters, and because the informed citizenry, comprised of Biden and Trump voters alike, believes the election results because there is no reason, no evidence not to.
It is foolish and naïve to think once Trump is out of the White House, Trumpism will disappear with it, free to bake and stew in south Florida.
No, those who stormed the Capitol and their supporters and sympathizers will carry the fake grievances of the 2020 election everywhere they go — and use it as a tool to obstruct progress or change.
That is the fight laid out before progressives and anyone, really, who wants to end the pandemic, secure equitable justice in America, address financial and health disparities and protect our air and water.
These Truths Are Evident
But there can be no unity without truth, a mutually agreed upon truth, as if there could be any other.
Yes, the 2020 election was fair and its results legitimate.
Yes, the climate is changing.
Yes, people of color suffer at the hands of state-sponsored violence through the hands of law enforcement at rates much larger and more severe than whites.
Yes, many Americans struggle deeply because they have no access to health care (and affordable housing).
These are truths.
So, yes, now, today, as we enter if not a new era of American politics than at least one separate and distinct from the draining, crippling, polarizing last four years, let’s strive for unity.
Let’s unite in our values, let’s unite in the work we have to do, because there is so, so much to do.
But first let’s unite in the truths we understand and believe.
Because there can be no progress, there can be no repair, there can be unity, withouth acknowledge the truth.
Have any feedback? I can be reached at scottmgilman @ gmail.com.